The Mountain Times

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Vermonters demand labeling of GMOs

For the third time in the last three years, bills (H.112, S.89) to label products containing genetically engineered materials have been introduced in the Vermont legislature. A similar bill was passed out of the House Agriculture Committee late in the 2012 session with a strong 9 to 1 vote, but failed to move forward as time ran out in the session.

This year, Rep. Kate Webb, the lead sponsor of last year's bill, and Sen. David Zuckerman have introduced new bills. The House bill (H.112) has tri-partisan support including 50 co-sponsors, and the support of the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Carolyn Partridge. The Senate bill was introduced with 11 co-sponsors. This show of support represents 1/3 of the members of the members of the legislature.

The Vermont Right to Know Coalition (VTRTK), a partnership of NOFA VT, Rural Vermont, VPIRG, & Cedar Circle Farm, is cosponsoring a series of Public Forums around the state to rally support for the bills and assist Vermonters in their efforts to persuade lawmakers to make the labeling of GE foods a priority this legislative session.

According to a poll by the UVM Center for Rural Studies, over 90% of Vermonters support the labeling of foods containing genetically engineered materials, which can be found in 70-80% of processed foods sold in the United States. A growing number of published international studies indicate significant health and environmental concerns associated with the production and consumption of GE foods, and over 50 countries around the world already mandate that they be explicitly labeled.

"The FDA does not require or conduct independent safety studies of GE foods. Instead, GE food developers themselves decide what information they will provide to the agency, and based on that data alone, the agency has systematically approved GE foods for mass consumption," says Cat Buxton, organizer and educator with Cedar Circle Farm. "The state of Vermont has a fundamental interest in protecting its citizens from health and other risks of GE foods, and ensuring they have the information they need to make informed choices about the food they eat and feed their families."

Similar bills have already been introduced in over a dozen states. Over 30 states in all are working to pass GE labeling legislation. California's attempt to pass Proposition 37 last year, a citizens' ballot measure to require labeling of GE food, met with over $45 million in opposition expenditures by the bio-tech industry and corporate food producers, ultimately defeating the bill by a small margin.

In Montpelier, bio-tech industry lobbyists have been challenging efforts by the state to regulate the proliferation and sales of genetically engineered seeds and products for over 15 years, despite widespread support for those measures from Vermont citizens.

VTRTK Public Forums pushing for the common sense labeling of foods containing genetically engineered materials will be held around the state the week of Feb. 25. Nearby meetings include:
¥    •Monday, Feb. 25, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., WHITE RIVER JCT, St. Paul's Episcopal Church
¥    •Thursday, Feb. 28, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., MIDDLEBURY, American Legion Building

The public forums are being co-sponsored by local food co-ops with support from Ben & Jerry's. The Vermont Right to Know Coalition is a partnerhsip of NOFA VT, Rural Vermont, VPIRG, & Cedar Circle Farm.